The Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas is actively looking for a new president, but it won’t be rushing into anything, said Allison Moore, the association’s communications manager.

“We obviously want to get it done, but we’re going to find the right person,” Moore said.

A search committee has been formed and is reviewing candidates in the search for a successor to Jesse Driskill, who left in November to become operations manager of the Nogales office of Meyer LLC, Moore said.

Driskill had led the association since March 2008.

“We’ve put job listings out publicly, and we’ve selected a few targeted sites to put it on,” she said. “It’s still pretty preliminary.”
The association also has reached out to potential candidates through personal contacts with association members.

The committee is finalizing a job description and soliciting resumes from qualified candi-dates, Moore said. At the same time, the association is writing a new strategic plan outlining the group’s mission and goals. 

A board retreat in February could lead to progress on the search, she said.

“That should help focus people on our big priorities,” she said.

The search committee is made up of Nogales shippers Chris Ciruli of Ciruli Bros., Jaime Chamberlain of JC Distributing, Alejandro Canelos of Apache Produce Imports, Martin Ley of Del Campo Supreme, Matt Mandel of SunFed, Miky Suarez of MAS Melons and Grapes and Kip Martin of Coogan & Martin PC.

Meanwhile, it’s more or less business as usual at the associa-tion while staff members wait for their new leader, Moore said.

“We’ve been able to absorb everything,” she said. “It helps having Chris and Jaime working more closely on operational issues. They never hesitate to answer a call or e-mail.”

Whereas in the past, the association may have relied on its president to attend a certain meeting, now it calls on one of its board members to fill in, Moore said.

Moore has accompanied board members to Washington, D.C., where the association — president or no president — continues to push hard on its legislative agenda.

At the top of that list in 2010, Moore said, is food safety legislation. The association wants to make sure that whatever bill makes it through both houses of Congress contains no discrepancies in how domestic and imported produce are treated.

Another priority for the asso-ciation on food safety is to ensure that the government gets inspection protocols right, Moore said.

“We want flexibility from the FDA on inspections so that as information changes, we can react to it,” she said.